7 Ways to Teach Your Teen to be a Good Sport

Teach your teen to be a good sport, no matter what the score is.
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Teenagers face fierce competition throughout high school and the rivalry often extends beyond the athletic fields. Band competitions, drama festivals, math meets, and talent shows are just a few of the other competitive arenas. 

While losing isn’t easy, poor sportsmanship isn’t a becoming quality. While some teens struggle with being sore losers, others aren’t very graceful winners. Proactively teach your teen how to be a good sport – regardless of the score.

1. Work to Instill Healthy Values

Multiple research studies show that teens are confused by their family’s values. If you want to raise a kind and caring teen, stress the importance of treating others with respect during a competition. Talk about the importance of being a good sport, no matter the score.

2. Praise Your Teen’s Efforts

Praise your teen for trying hard, treating others with kindness, and for being a good sport, rather than winning. Instead of saying, “Great job getting 10 points today,” say, “Great hustle in the game today.” Point out instances where you notice your teen being a good sport by saying, “I really liked the way you clapped when the injured player on the other team was able to walk off the field.”

3. Hold Frequent Conversations About Sportsmanship

Whether you’re watching a game on TV or you’re discussing your teen’s performance in the big game, bring up the subject of sportsmanship.

Unfortunately, professional sports offer a lot of opportunities to talk about poor sportsmanship.

Discuss incidents where athletes make poor choices and discuss the consequences of being a poor sport. Point out how poor sports are usually viewed by others and how their bad attitudes can hurt them in the long run.

4. Address Problems as They Arise

Whether your child is cheating at a board game or you notice a few elbows being thrown in the game, don’t ignore the issue. Send a clear message that says unsportsmanlike conduct is never acceptable. Discipline your child by taking away privileges or assigning extra responsibilities when necessary.

5. Role Model Good Sportsmanship

Your child will learn the most about sportsmanship based on what you do – not what you say. Role model good sportsmanship by acknowledging when the opposing team makes a good play and don’t cheer when they make a mistake. Avoid coaching from the sidelines and never belittle the game officials for “making a bad call.”

6. Teach Life Lessons

Competition can serve as an excellent way for teens to learn valuable life lessons. Keep the focus on learning – rather than winning. Teach your teen to accept responsibility for her behavior, rather than blaming other players for the losing the game.

When your teen complains about unfair calls or blames the other team for cheating, use it as an opportunity to talk about how life isn’t fair and complaining about it won’t solve anything. Instead, talk about the importance of focusing on what she can control - working hard, doing her best, and sharpening her skills.

7. Keep the Focus on Fun and Growing Better

Very few high school athletes turn sports into a career. Therefore, playing sports should be about having fun, getting exercise, and learning new skills. Discuss what your teen enjoyed about the competition instead of the score. After each competition, ask your teen what she learned from her performance, and encourage her to keep striving to grow better, regardless of the outcome.

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